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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

Council boosts fee for tows, storage

Toledo City Council boosted police-ordered towing fees yesterday by $15 per tow, plus $3 a day for storage.

The increased fees are expected to generate an additional $110,000 this year to help balance the city's budget.

The cost of claiming a vehicle ordered towed by police will be $85 for the tow and $12 a day for storage.

The current fees are $70 for the tow and $9 a day for outside storage.

The Council voted 10-1, with Councilman Frank Szollosi voting no. Councilman Betty Shultz was absent.

Mayor Jack Ford's original goal was to collect fees from the tow operators without passing the increased fees on to vehicle owners.

Tow operators and members of council objected that the administration's proposed fees of $25,000 per tow operator would put many of them out of business.

Yesterday, John Loftus, the city's assistant chief operating officer, said the final version was the best that could be negotiated among the tow operators, the administration, and council.

The measure is expected to generate about $110,000 for the remainder of this year, short of the $175,000 the administration had hoped to recoup.

Councilman Karyn McConnell, who helped on the compromise, said the tow operation is a big cost to the city - $800,000 a year, according to police estimates.

“We're in a deficit, and we have to recoup some of the money,” Ms. McConnell said.

Licensed tow operators haul vehicles from accidents and crime scenes, as well as abandoned or junked vehicles.

The city contends the 12 licensed towing companies make a healthy profit, citing the $1.78 million made by the tow companies in 2002.

Tow operators contend their profits are significantly reduced by the city's license requirements, including being on duty 24 hours and having to maintain four tow trucks.

Under the final deal, operators will have to pay the city $10 for each vehicle towed, whether or not the vehicle is claimed.

In addition, the city will take a bigger share of the proceeds of the auctions of unclaimed vehicles.

The city now gets 20 percent, but will get 60 percent under the new ordinance.

The issue has reignited interest on council and in the administration in establishing a city tow lot.

Police Chief Michael Navarre said a centralized tow lot would save police the trouble of inspecting 12 private tow lots each week, and it would be more convenient for the owners of towed vehicles.

Chief Navarre said the start-up costs would be offset by the income from the storage of vehicles.



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